I’ve never posted much about the “big gay journey” part of my life, but this Pride month it has been on my mind. So, I’m sharing what I thought about as I painted this Pride-inspired, colorful abstract today.
I knew that I was different somehow from a pretty early age. Those who say “don’t say gay” are wrong… I think I would have benefitted from knowing that gay people and gay parents and gay families even existed at an early age. It never came up in my conservative family and I had no idea what was going on with me through my childhood. There were no visible gay people around, nor role models in rural, conservative southern Missouri. By the time I figured things out on my own, I knew being gay must be very much hidden from the world. And loathed by myself.
After years of suppressing who I was, accepting the oppression I witnessed around me, thinking about ending my life (just a jerk of the wheel going 100mph on the autobahn), I finally accepted me as God made me. I was 27 when I finally came out, and then spent the next decade trying desperately to change the minds and hearts of my immediate family, while my parents pleaded with me to get “cured”. But, the resolve of my parents, and brother, and sister to continue rejecting me only solidified as the years progressed. I believe this kind of hate is taught, learned and still advocated by many. I still am in wonder that I made it through it all, but I did and my journey continues out the other end.
Now, my life is full. Full of my art, the love of my life and best friend Steve, many wonderful extended family members and a sense of peace. Yes, I’ve had to let go of much and have found forgiving my immediate family, especially my parents, is more of an ongoing process than a single decision point.
So yes, it does get better and yes, I’m proud. Proud of being the gay man God made me to be. So I paint these rainbow colors with lots of reflection and pride!
This summer has been a flurry of activity (and stress) to get me and my husband Steve moved back to my native Denver, Colorado. We arrived to a temporary apartment living situation on May 1st and haven’t looked back. Less than a month later we were under contract to buy a great townhome in Denver’s Central Park (formally Stapleton) neighborhood. I can’t believe how blessed and fortunate we were to find a place to buy so quickly in the hot Denver housing market!
Now that we’re mostly settled, we’ve been enjoying the main reason we moved back to Denver – spending time with old friends and extended family here in Colorado. We even took a day off to hike one of my most favorite hikes in the world… the Hagerman Tunnel railroad bed trail near Leadville, Colorado.
I’ve also been getting settled into my basement studio space at our new home. It’s a fine workspace for now, but this winter I’m planning to have the interior finished with drywall, electrical, new lighting, a work sink, a purple-painted concrete floor, etc!
I just popped this mini abstract into a fun, silver metal frame and love it! This’ll be a hint at another blog post to come about my mini abstracts that I mount for original artcards.
I haven’t been liking much of what I’m doing in my studio since the lockdown started nearly 2 weeks ago, but loved this mini so much that I just had to share today! And, the cool colors remind me of the now-closed Oregon coast beaches that I love so much.
I’m in a bit of an “artist intermission” full of anxiety, and the familiar depression that I’ve battled for many years. Nope, not a glamorous star here bringing awareness to those of us who live with depression and anxiety. And, I don’t have the resources to completely “take time off” to check in to a place of wellness to work on myself. Although I’m happy for those creatives who can work on their own wellness with time off and a dedicated (even inspirational) place to do it.
For me, I’m still here – in my home studio which has sat empty and alone for the past several weeks, just waiting for me to come back. I’ll admit that I’m acutely struggling right now.
Meanwhile, some of you have asked what I do with myself?
Well, I sleep a lot. I’ve worked on office chores such as household budgeting and financial actuals. I sit in my green leather studio chair and pet studio cat Stan. I managed to finally update my website with snapshots from my Arctic Circle Expedition. I take pills and go to talk therapy. I attempt to help myself with hard-to-crack wellness workbooks. And, I generally try to get back into things I’ve enjoyed in days gone by like gardening… one weed pulled at a time.
I miss painting my abstracts… I really do. Hopefully a new and inspirational project will come along for me soon. In the meantime, I’ll just try to tread water.
And a big thank-you to my husband, Steve, who through it all, helps and loves me lots.
Daunted by the experience itself and the 900 snapshots I took on the Expedition, I’ve clearly taken several months off from blogging more about my trip. Today I finally finished going through all of my snapshots, pulling out the better ones for publishing here on my blog and posting on my website.
The good news is that in the meantime, I completed the last larger commissions for my Kickstarter backers in late February, so everyone now has their arctic abstracts – over 80 that I painted – all inspired by my time in the ice and cold of the arctic circle.
Preparing for the Expedition, I had thought I’d be able to possibly paint on a table set up on the outside deck of the ship. But after two failed attempts to paint in the cold, snow and wind, I set up a makeshift studio on my bunkbed in my shared cabin. Tight quarters for sure, but I made it work and at least was out of the extreme elements!
This year has been a struggle for me as I live my artist’s life with ongoing depression and rising anxiety. Some might say I’m just another “tortured” artist, but it has taken me 20+ years to become accustomed to what “normal” feels like for me. And how I feel has changed alot this year for me.
So, as I work to get back to my own normal, one of my trusty therapies is my painting process. And besides trees, the sea and sky is one of my most favorite subjects. Painting the expansive sea and the ever-changing sky along with a nice, crisp horizon line holding them together almost always calms my nerves.
See what you think (and feel) with my latest sea and sky painting below. It’s titled No. 6 but is the only larger sea and sky painting to date that I’ve completely finished and mounted on panel. Click the painting or the link below to view it on my website.
I’ve been painting squares like never before recently… which for me is saying alot! I’m even doing a bit of collage application – here are some 1″ x 1″ squares that I’ve applied to a larger painting. Incidently, I met the Property Brothers – Drew, Jonathan and JD Scott – this past weekend at a private meet and greet here in Columbus. I’m a HUGE fan and presented them with some of my original artwork. The painting below was one of them!
I’ve been a fan of Michael W Smith’s music for a long time – surely over 25 years. His music and message always inspire me… all year around and at the holidays. His music is especially a favorite of mine for listening in my studio.
I recently commented here that I was listening to some of my favorite holiday music in my studio, including Michael W Smith, and received an interesting message from one of my blog fans. In a nutshell, the point was, how do I reconcile being a big fan of a musician who most likely would condemn and oppress me for being gay? I’ll admit that it is a question that I’ve avoided researching over the years, not really wanting to confirm anything. But, this message from a fan made me google around to see what I could find. I didn’t really stop to think how I would solve this problem, depending upon what I found out…
Well, there doesn’t seem to be much out there about what Michael W Smith thinks of gay folks. But, he does have a recent, dramatic video on his website that encourages conservatives to vote and highlights the fear of “redefining marraige” as a motivator. He also seems to be a fan of Rick Santorum, and we all know what he thinks of gay Americans.
So, how do I solve a problem like Michael W Smith? Is there a problem? Can I just not care what he thinks and still be inspired by his music? I’m certainly not a book-or-CD-burning kind of guy, but will I stop listening to his music? Blech – I don’t know.
Maybe I’ll try focusing on a simple message that is on his live Worship album. I wrote it down to send to members of my family years ago and dug it out to hang back up in my studio today:
Where do I begin? Well, perhaps I’ll start with where I ended up…. Columbus, Ohio. Nine months ago, the cats and I made the two-day drive from Denver to Columbus to join my partner, Steve, in our new home. Steve had received an opportunity to transfer within his company to the regional office in Columbus and, since we had been talking about “going on an adventure” for awhile, we jumped on it. And landed smack in the middle of Ohio.
While Steve’s new job got off to a great start, I quickly became deeply involved in helping care for my 85-year-old Uncle Jack. The court here in Ohio appointed me his legal guardian and I spent much of the Spring and Summer travelling up to Cleveland to help care for Uncle Jack’s health and finances. Sadly, my Uncle Jack passed away at the end of the Summer… may he rest in peace!
So, now I’m making art in my basement studio that I’ve set up. A lot of pent-up paintings are now flowing. They’ll be showing up here soon, so stay tuned for more posts from Columbus!
I love when kids of all ages really look at and comment on my art… it may sound corny, but it helps give me hope for our future! Sometimes, someone will go beyond that and really surprise me though. I recently had an exchange with a new fan that started with an email that said, “Hello. I really like your art and wanted to say ‘good job’.” I replied with my usual thank-you email and encouraged them to sign up for my email list or to Like me on Facebook where I post occassional art specials for folks. I love the repy I got back:
I can’t get any of your artwork because I’m only 10.
Well, if this young art fan is able to get her parent’s permission, I’ll be sending her one of my flapjacks to get her collection started – you’re never too young!!
I thought I’d share one of my favorite perennials that shows up as inspiration in my art… whether it is my Cupid’s Dart notecard image or the perfect lavender-blue color that I love so much. These are from a clump growing in our back garden. I transplanted them last year and was afraid they wouldn’t come back this year, but they did!
I’m working on mounting this painting to canvas panels… the whole painting will be a 24 x 64″ triptych. But I’m feeling alot of “dis” since returning from the Oregon coast: -content, -combobulated, -organized, -energized, -heartened, -engaged… it’s not that I’m not happy, just going through some growing pains right now.
OK folks… I’m back in Denver but haven’t forgotten that I promised to post my Tillamook Baked Mac-n-Cheese recipe. The most important ingredient is genuine Tillamook Cheddar cheese. I personally use their medium sharp or sometimes their extra sharp white reserve cheddar. I can usually get either one in our local Costco. Visit their website (www.tillamookcheese.com) for more recipes and to join their fan club!
One other note – this is a baked casserole type mac-n-cheese very similar to how my Mom made it. No bechamel sauce here!! So, if you like really soupy-saucy mac-n-cheese, this recipe lends a much more baked and firm texture. Here’s the recipe – enjoy!
1.5 cups small curd cottage cheese
6 oz. whipped cream cheese
seasoning to taste (I use 1 teaspoon each of black pepper and onion powder and 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder; a general seasoning mix is good too, although avoid too much additional salt!)
Mix the above ingredients in a large bowl with a whisk until well-combined. Then mix in the following cheeses:
3.5 cups grated Tillamook medium sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 – 1 cup grated gruyere cheese
Cook 14-16 oz. of pasta according to directions for “al dente” (I usually don’t use elbow, but something larger like penne). Drain pasta, toss and cool for a few minutes and then mix into the cheese mixture. Pour mac-n-cheese into a buttered 2.5 quart casserole dish, top with additional grated gruyere and bake at 325 degrees for about 45 minutes. Mac-n-cheese should be bubbling throughout and have a golden crust on top. Enjoy!
I notice that I’m not the only blogger that has taken some time off this summer from regular blogging. At the beginning of the summer I knew that I would have some out of the studio time in July and August to work on home renovation projects and travel a bit, including a solo camping trip to one of my favorite spots in Colorado, just outside of Leadville.
So, in my effort to get back into the swing of things, I thought I’d post a few snapshots from the last 2 months of a few of my outside-of-the-studio activities! I’ll share more about my favorite camping spot in another post.
Quite a surprising sighting in our own backyard when I got home from my studio yesterday: 3 wild turkeys! While we don’t live in downtown Denver, we do live a block from Cheesman Park and the Denver Botanic Gardens, which is a pretty densely populated neighborhood about 1.5 miles from downtown. I’ve never seen a wild turkey in Colorado, much less in Denver, but there they were. After flying from our carriage house into our neighbor’s backyard, I last saw them running up the sidewalk towards the Botanic Gardens.
I guess it pays to keep my eyes open, because I never would have believed this!
After yesterday’s “blizzard”, today seemed a perfect day for paperwork in my home office and some good old-fashioned, snow-day goofing off. The goofing off part included making some wonderful peanut butter cookies that are flourless and gluten free… I mix in chocolate chips for 1/2 of the dough.
Recipe below – enjoy!
GLUTEN FREE PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES
1 cup super chunky peanut butter
1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix first 5 ingredients in medium bowl. Mix in chocolate chips. Using moistened hands, form generous 1 tablespoon dough for each cookie into ball. Arrange on 2 ungreased baking sheets, spacing 2 inches apart.
Bake cookies until puffed, golden on bottom and still soft to touch in center, about 12 minutes. Cool on sheets 5 minutes. Transfer to racks; cool completely.